Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

How much should Cubs fans care about their team's horrendous owners?

On top of everything else in 2020, should sports fans care how terrible their team’s owners are?
On top of everything else in 2020, should sports fans care how terrible their team’s owners are?
Image: (Getty Images)

Todd Ricketts is a petulant child, and he’s mad because his awful brother, Tom, gets all the attention as chairman of the Chicago Cubs. Todd and his sister, Laura, also run the franchise, but Todd doesn’t care about Laura. He just wants you to know that he’s one of the people who owns the team.

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Todd Ricketts also serves as the finance chair of the Trump Victory Committee, and that campaign is going just swell, isn’t it? A New Yorker piece this week delves into Ricketts’ grotesque politics, and it’s a pretty good deep dive.

A line that sums it up: “Early in his term, Trump rewarded Ricketts for his support, nominating him to become the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, but Ricketts, unable to disentangle his financial interests to satisfy ethics rules, withdrew his name from consideration.”

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Not being able to satisfy the ethics requirements to serve in the Trump administration is an incredible bar to clear. And, he’s not just in it for the sweet rewards of economic policies that further enrich him. He’s a racist, having posted about “kung flu” as a term for COVID-19 even before Trump did. The nicest thing anyone has to say about Ricketts is former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s quote, “We get wonky, geeky, about policy,” and Scott Walker’s idea of policy is a wall between the United States and Canada. Scott Walker is a moron.

As illuminating as it is for the depth of the slime that inhabits the place where Ricketts’ soul should be, the New Yorker piece does not answer the question posed by its subhead: “Should fans care that an owner of the Chicago Cubs is also the chief fund-raiser for Donald Trump?”

The answer to that question is tricky and personal, but not unique to the Cubs. Charles Johnson, the owner of the San Francisco Giants, throws all kinds of money at Republicans ranging from a few who seem borderline normal to complete buffoons. Lots of NFL owners are on the Trump train, too. Across all sports, owners are obscenely rich, and the obscenely rich tend toward the GOP, which in this era means supporting Trump, and has taken things from “can I root for a team owned by someone with whom I have political differences?” to “is it morally wrong to continue supporting this team owned by people who are funding the ransacking of the concept of American democracy as part of an entire slate of heinous and inhuman policies?” In some cases these owners might also be terrible at owning a sports team, too.

Lately, that’s the case with the Ricketts family, which has focused more on dominating business on the North Side of Chicago and turning Wrigley Field into a cash factory than it has on dominating the National League Central and turning the Cubs into a perennial winner. They’ve laid off employees, given safe harbor to domestic abusers and homophobes, stagnated on the field, and priced out average fans. But if you’ve been a lifelong Cubs fan, does that mean you stop being one? Or is that giving this pack of weasels in charge too much power?

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Everyone’s answer to this, ultimately, is personal, and having lived through two decades of James Dolan’s ownership of the Knicks, it’s not an easy answer to find. There’s always buying tickets through the secondary market, and not putting down money on merchandise, but it’s not just about the financial connection between a fan and a team. There’s an emotional attachment, and that’s hard to deal with.

The best solution on offer? Remember that the team is not the owner. You don’t have to be a Cubs fan, and it’s possible to get through conflicted feelings, as Cubs fans should remember from the feeling of winning a World Series in which Aroldis Chapman gave up a tying homer in Game 7. You can be a Javier Báez and Jason Heyward fan. Those are good guys, and if the team they play for wins, in the city you love, that’s great. And everyone loves parades, right? There won’t be one of those in New York anytime soon, but Frank Ntilikina is really cool.

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If the team stinks and is full of jerks with an evil owner, you can also go the other way and keep your distance. Torturing yourself emotionally in the name of something you don’t like anything about is unhealthy and not a mark of honor as a sports fan, or whatever you’d want to call it.

So, yes, Cubs fans should care that the team is owned in part by one of the worst people in America. But the Cubs are bigger than the Ricketts family, and it’s possible to support the team without supporting them. Until the rest of North American sports get on board with the Green Bay Packers’ model of civic ownership, this is a conundrum that’s not going to go away. It’s one that fans all over are going to have to continue to deal with, and the best way to get through it is to remember that there are lots of different ways to be a fan, and you just have to find the one that’s right for you.

Sorry to all the other Jesse Spectors for ruining your Google results.

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